The Libertarian Party’s Bill Weld was asked recently why we still have the second amendment if the constitution grants us the right to life. Weld could have taken this argument in many directions, and with his history on guns, could have easily agreed, but he took this interesting approach. What do you think of it?
By Kyle Sammin
In a speech in Philadelphia Thursday, Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld displayed a shift from his previous stances about the right to bear arms.
After a few questions about the Veterans Administration—Weld favors privatizing it on the Medicare model—one college-age supporter at the Temple University event asked how, if the Constitution guarantees the right to life, can it also countenance the right to bear arms as broadly as it does in twenty-first-century America?
Given Weld’s support for restricting Second Amendment rights in Massachusetts when he served as governor there, a libertarian could be forgiven for questioning his commitment to the Constitution here.
Gun Rights Protect Our Right to Life
Weld first gently dismissed the student’s constitutional argument, noting that document also enshrines the right to bear arms, and that the right to life in no way contradicts it. As he extended his argument, Weld did not rely on the more mainstream arguments about sportsmen and home protection. Instead, he adopted the classical liberal approach—the one the Founding Fathers favored—of insisting that personal firearms ownership is essential for the defense against a tyrannical government.
In nations where the state has deprived the citizens of guns, Weld noted, liberty has not fared so well. That defense of gun ownership, in particular, is telling; it is usually not one offered by lukewarm gun controllers looking to hide their opposition to gun rights. Like many ideas of small-l libertarians, it harkens back to the natural law on which our Bill of Rights is based.
Weld drew on his background as a federal prosecutor to describe the need for keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and people with mental illness, spending more time on the need to effectively fight the latter group. Many Libertarians may question his timely change of heart on guns. But in making a vigorous defense of Second Amendment liberties, it appears Johnson and the Libertarian Party may be rubbing off on Weld.